CHILDHOOD DEPRESSION: CAUSES AND HOW TO HELP

               In recent times, depression has become rampant among children, and this has become a thing of concern for parents, teachers and caregivers. 

Depression among children is quite incredible because people believe children are free-spirited and have nothing to worry about but, times are changing and- it has become glaring that children have feelings that are malleable by the situation and circumstances surrounding them.

In 2020, someone tweeted, “just received the news that my 12-year-old cousin has committed suicide.” Under the thread, parents and caregivers were confused and asked questions about what could have gone wrong. How much emotion could she have bottled up until the situation escalated?

I could relate to this story because I had suicidal thoughts as a child due to verbal abuse. I even conceived running away. Youths can relate to this because parents make comments daily that can dent the self-esteem of a child. 

Have you ever heard your parents pass comments like “if you can’t pass the exam, at least you can pass the remote” or “You are too fat for that dress. Look at your legs” or, “The person that took first position, does he have two heads?”

Body shaming, emotional and verbal abuse which causes low self-esteem, and depression starts from the home. It is safe to say that our parents were ignorant of these matters. But as a new generation and intentional parents, we will not be unaware of these things. 

Here are five reasons your child might be depressed:

Bullying: Bullying in school and on the computer has been a leading cause of depression in childhood and adolescence. Bullying is a repetitive and negative behaviour exhibited by children and teenagers which affects the mental health of the victim. Effects from bullying can last up to 40 years, affecting the child in the workplace when he eventually becomes an adult.  

Neglect: According to Wikipedia, child neglect is a form of abuse, an egregious behaviour of caregivers that result in deprivation of child basic needs including failure to provide adequate supervision, healthcare, clothing or housing as well as other physical, social, educational and safety needs. In Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, humans have needs that they desire to be met either by themselves, by the environment or by others around them, including parents and caregivers.

When these needs are not satisfied, there will be an adverse effect on the individual. Suicidal thoughts and depression can begin to set in. The risk of depression in neglected children is relatively higher than in children who are not.

Because children are dependent on their parents and caregivers, they look up to them to meet their needs. When these needs are not taken care of, depression can occur. These needs include love, respect, family, intimacy, a sense of belonging, shelter, food, communication, self-esteem etc.

Emotional and verbal abuse: Parents and caregivers are supposed to be the source of encouragement, but what happens when that same parent becomes the person passing disparaging remarks due to tiredness, stress at work or even all in the name of discipline?

Does your child have to be so careful around you to avoid you passing aggression? Parents have myriad reasons for their actions and speech. But, they fail to recognize that verbal and emotional abuse has long term adverse effects on the mind and personality of a child.

Emotional and verbal abuse by parents and caregivers that lasts for a period causes low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and, perhaps, suicide.

Attachment disorder: According to the psychiatric times, an attachment may be defined as a composite of behaviours in an infant, toddler, or young child that is designed to achieve physical and emotional closeness between mother or preferred caregiver when the child seeks comfort, support, nurture and protection.

When a child is healthy attached to a caregiver, it produces trust, intimacy, self-esteem, comfort etc. And children show healthy anxiety when their parent or caregiver is absent. Attachment disorder occurs when parents and caregivers are unable to meet the needs of the child. Children with attachment disorders tend to avoid people and show anxiety, fear, unwillingness to engage with others, anger and depression.

– Trauma: Traumatic occurrences in childhood is also a cause of depression in children. Traumatic situations can include physical abuse, loss of parents, accidents etc.

Signs that your child may be depressed include:

– Withdrawal from school activities and friends 

– Unusual quietness and keeping to self

– Low grades

– Binge-watching tv or playing games for a prolonged and unusual period

– Excessive sleep

– Suicide attempts

– Drug abuse

Here is what you can do to help:

– Seek professional help.

– Communication with children: Communication is one of the basic needs of a child. Effective communication has proven to reduce the anxiety that could graduate in depression in children.

– Encourage, not judge: In times of crisis, the family should be the first and strong pillar of support, not criticism.

– Appreciate the little things they do. Reward when necessary.

Below is a poem by my friend, the Witty. Please enjoy: 

If only your eyes could perform an X-ray,

You would have seen many wars in an array.

 Not the battles physical weapons fight,

 Nor which engaged by a million knight.

 You see me but not me you see;

The man in me has sailed on the sea.

 My deaf ears turn to what you say;

 Speak not until my pain I slay.

 Sour is life like a decayed food in my mouth;

 Bitterness continually journeys afar,

 Afar the north of my heart to its south;

 A major catalyst to my brain’s attack.

 My legs are heavy as though made of stone;

 Hands so adhesive for reasons unknown.

 The only thing to say of my relic

 Could be the pain I feel so chronic.

 Why place before me a cup of tonic?

 Ain’t you know a drop will taste like acid?

 Try not to give me food;

 Try not to let me eat;

 Try not to do me good;

 Try not to calm the heat.

 The heat I feel from within,

 From within me and in-between;

 Bitterness and sorrow are now twins;

 A twin of horror using me like a tin.

 Neglected I am, but the pain I set in motion;

 Older ones see me as though I lack emotion;

 They leave me to wander in my naivety

 Until I put to death my alacrity;

 For they do not know how I feel;

 Nor for a child, that depression is real.

 *©️ THE WITTY*

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